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Yad Vashem Mourns the Untimely Passing of the Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Studies, Professor David Bankier

28 February 2010

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev: “Professor Bankier was a researcher of the highest caliber, a gifted lecturer, and a human being of outstanding integrity, brilliance and humility. We have lost one of the world’s most important scholars in the field of research of German Society and Nazi Antisemitism.”

27 February 2010, This past weekend saw the untimely passing of the Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, Professor David Bankier, who succumbed to a lengthy and grueling illness.

Professor David Bankier was born in Germany in 1947. He attended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he earned his doctorate in Jewish History. His doctoral thesis dealt with German Society and Nazi Antisemitism, 1933-1938. A Lady Davis fellow, he was the Solomon and Victoria Cohen Professor at the Hebrew University and headed the section for Studies in Antisemitism and the Holocaust at the University’s Institute for Contemporary Jewry. Over the years, Professor Bankier served as visiting professor at universities in London, the United States, South Africa and South America, was involved in developing centers of Jewish studies in Latin America, and promoted academic publications in Spanish. In 2000, he was appointed Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, and Incumbent of the John Najmann Chair of Holocaust Studies.

Professor Bankier was an esteemed scholar with a distinct approach to Holocaust research. The majority of his studies dealt with persecutors and bystanders – an area of research previously studied mainly by Germans and other nationals – but from the viewpoint of a researcher of Jewish history seeking to understand the Jewish dimension within wider developments. Among his topics of interest was how antisemitism became the most central and efficient tool used by the Nazi regime to sustain the flame of its ideology, both in its in its internal regime struggles and in its efforts to recruit the masses. Bankier published numerous scholarly studies, including his notable book, The Germans and the Final Solution: Public Opinion Under Nazism. A recently published book collates a selection of Professor Bankier’s articles that reflect his principal scientific approach: “Hitler, the Holocaust and German Society: Cooperation and Awareness.”

“Professor Bankier was one of the most important and most cited scholars in the research of Nazi Germany. His publications in this field constitute a cornerstone of modern academic research,” noted Chairman of Yad Vashem Avner Shalev. He added that the Professor Bankier was a gifted and compelling lecturer, a human being of exceptional integrity, brilliant, sharp, and focused in his approach to research. “David was a great friend, exceptionally humble, and a mensch, who fought his illness with valor, refusing to cease his regular activities and continuing to work until his final day,” eulogized Shalev.